there's a wee bit at the back of the current issue of cycle sport intimating the best 25 moments in cycling. number twenty-two is robert millar winning the polka dot jersey in the 1984 tour de france and the number of cyclists that were inspired by this achievement. i was, and indeed am, one of those cyclists.
in the early days of tv cycle coverage, and older readers of this column will remember this, channel four used to give us half-an-hour's worth of coverage of le tour each night from 6pm - 6:30 and, if you blank out the inevitable rant from gary imlach, the duo of ligget and sherwen was most people's introduction to cycling at this international level. nowadays we have eurosport and hours and hours of coverage every day throughout the giro, tour and vuelta. (i may return to this later).
anyway, to return to the bob millar bit. if you glance to your left you will notice a link to pages of millar stuff which thewashingmachinepost is proud to present, courtesy cycle sport magazine. at the time i knew little about cycle racing, even as far as wondering why there were guys on road bikes and coloured jerseys racing up and down the ayr bypass (i lived in troon at the time). this seemed like a particularly strange pastime then, and no doubt the folks around islay think the same about me now.
robert had not only taken part in the tour de france, but he'd flippin' won the king of the mountains jersey and come in fourth overall - the highest finish ever attained by a british rider. and the british tag was only there under sufference. millar is scottish! so you can see where the inspiration came from.
at that time, as previously mentioned, i lived in troon but worked at prestwick airport which is about five miles away, and i cycled to and from work on what, at the time, i thought was a pretty nifty piece of machinery, a falcon viscount. the reason i thought it was nifty was because it arrived with a poster showing a presumably prominent cyclist of the time, dressed in regulation lycra with a bike that looked remarkably similar to my own. the fact that my own bike was made from hi-ten steel and the one in the photo probably wasn't even made by falcon, but certainly using one of reynolds' finest manganese molybdenum alloys and more than likely fitted with components from one of the big two.
but ignorance is bliss. i knew absolutely none of this at the time except that the bike in the shed looked like the one on the poster, the bike shop down the road sold peugeot bikes which looked the same, robert millar rode a peugeot ('cos it said so on his jersey, which, incidentally you can now buy from prendas ciclismo), so how difficult could it be?
anyone who lives around the troon/prestwick area will know that one of the roads out of troon leads to the road leading over to the smaller town of dundonald. memory leads me to believe that this road was at least as steep as alpe d'huez, possibly even steeper, and if robert millar could win piddling little mountain stages in the tour, then a stalwart such as myself would barely notice a small bump in the road to dundonald. remember, this is the chap who cycled to and from prestwick every day and sported a physique that would embarrass a wireframe model.
so, having watched the tour on channel four, i put on my best t-shirt with a pair of trousers tucked into my socks and a decent pair of trainers and set off towards dundonald. the first part was pretty easy up past the dodds of troon bus garage, across the 'main' road and onto alp d'huez itself. this bike was fitted with the standard chainset of the day, a 52/42, though i can't remember what size the largest rear sprocket was - probably 24 or 26.
about half way up this climb i bagan to realise that my speed wasn't quite what it could/should have been, and that i had no sprockets left at the back to save my considerable embarrassment. a few yards further on i ground to a complete halt, with sweat pouring down my face which was already bright red. and then i was sick. i felt so bad, i couldn't get enough momentum to carry on upward, and had to turn the bike round and freewheel back down towards home. obviously the cameras made those mountain stages in the tour look much steeper than they actually were. because, let's face it, if i couldn't get from troon to dundonald, there was no chance that robert could have outdone this effort in the french mountains.
however, now i know different. i still love going uphill, though i've never had the opportunity to try something of the scale of the french alps or pyrenees and all this due to the great robert millar. i have no idea where robert is these days, but if by some strange quirk of fate he happens to be reading this the post only exists because of you, graeme and ernesto. and that seems like quite exalted company.
this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) there are also links to cycling weekly reviews of the colnago c50 and colnago dream b-stay. i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to. here's the link.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, and imac computers, using adobe golive cs and adobe photoshop cs. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.